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February 08 2018


Fracking chemicals linked to precancerous lesions in mice

Female mice exposed to chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations before birth may develop precancerous lesions and other abnormalities on their mammary glands later, a new study suggests.

Additionally, some of the mice involved in the study developed precancerous mammary lesions that may suggest they will be more sensitive to chemicals that cause cancer.

Using more than 1,000 different chemicals, UOG operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to release natural gas from underground rock.

“Our earlier research showed that both male and female mice had alterations to hormone levels and reproductive organs resulting from exposures to these UOG contaminants,” says Susan C. Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health at the University of Missouri.

“We felt this could indicate that exposures to UOG chemical mixtures can produce a range of defects in animals exposed during vulnerable periods, such as development in the womb. So, we examined 23 UOG contaminants and compounds commonly used or produced in the fracking process.”

In the study, female mice were exposed to various amounts of the 23 UOG chemicals from gestational day 11 to birth. Although no effects were observed on the mammary glands of these females prior to puberty, in early adulthood, female mice developed mammary lesions and hyperplasia, a condition that causes enlargement of an organ or tissue.

“We chose varying amounts of the UOG mixture in order to mimic a range of human exposures to these chemicals,” Nagel says, who is also an adjunct associate professor of biological sciences.

Poor health more likely for babies born near fracking

“These suggest that the mammary gland is sensitive to mixtures of chemicals used in unconventional oil and gas production. Determining whether these fracking mixtures affect human populations is an important goal, particularly as the number of fracking sites within human population centers increases.”

The findings appear in Endocrinology.

Additional, long-term studies are needed to evaluate these outcomes, the researchers say. Coauthors are from Duke University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health supported the work.

Source: University of Missouri

The post Fracking chemicals linked to precancerous lesions in mice appeared first on Futurity.


Uber wins French case against driver claiming to be 'employee'

Ride-hailing giant Uber has won a case filed by a French driver claiming he should be considered an employee, with judges saying the company is simply an intermediary—a ruling that clashes with a top EU court decision just weeks ago.

Kale to go: Amazon to roll out delivery at Whole Foods

Amazon delivery is coming to Whole Foods.

Twitter turns first profit ever, but problems remain

Twitter beat Wall Street's cautious expectations with its first quarterly profit in history, but that isn't going to solve the company's broader problems any time soon.

Hydrothermal vents speed development of deep-sea marine animal eggs

A team of scientists from the University of Rhode Island and the Charles Darwin Research Station exploring the seafloor northwest of the Galapagos Islands in 2015 made an unexpected discovery. Large numbers of egg cases of a deep-sea skate – relatives of sharks and rays – were observed adjacent to the hot water emitted from hydrothermal vents, which the scientists said the skates use to accelerate the development of the embryos.

Scientists simplify process to make polymers with light-triggered nanoparticles

Rice University scientists plan to employ the power of the sun to build functional synthetic polymers using photosensitive quantum dots—microscopic semiconducting particles—as a catalyst.

New theory of dark matter based on the detection of unusual X-ray radiation from galaxies

Dark matter is increasingly puzzling. Around the world, physicists have been trying for decades to determine the nature of these matter particles, which do not emit light and are therefore invisible to the human eye. Their existence was postulated in the 1930s to explain certain astronomical observations. As visible matter, like the one that makes up the stars and the Earth, constitutes just 5 percent of the universe, it has been proposed that dark matter must represent 23 percent of what is out there. But to date and despite intensive research, it has proved impossible to actually identify the particles involved. Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have now presented a novel theory of dark matter, which implies that dark matter particles may be very different from what is normally assumed. In particular, their theory involves dark matter particles which are extremely light—almost one hundred times lighter than electrons, in stark contrast to many conventional models that involve very heavy dark matter particles instead.

It matters who your mother is, even for fish

Tilapia has become a top seafood staple on many dinner tables worldwide. New research shows the Tilapia-industry can produce more of the finest cuts by paying closer attention to maternal breeding factors.

Emotional bond between humans and dogs dates back 14,000 years

Prehistoric people may well have had an emotional bond with domesticated dogs much earlier than we thought. Leiden Ph.D. candidate and vet Luc Janssens discovered that a dog found at the start of the last century in a grave dating back 14,000 years had been sick for a long time and had been cared for. Publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

World-first genetic analysis reveals Aussie white shark numbers

Of all apex predators, the white shark Carchardon carcharias (commonly known as the great white) is perhaps the most fascinating. The potential danger from (very rare) human interaction has embedded the species in our national consciousness.

How to make healthy buildings in an era of mass migration

Worldwide population growth and mass migrations are putting the infrastructure of many cities under strain. With city governments under pressure to provide more housing and work spaces, people can end up living and working in poorly designed or low quality buildings.

Light and copper catalysis improves amine synthesis

EPFL chemists have developed a novel and efficient method to make amines, which are among the most important structural compounds in pharmaceuticals and organic materials. The study is published in Nature Catalysis.

Our lungs aren’t all identical

Our lungs’ internal anatomy is surprisingly variable and some of these anatomical variations are associated with a higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study indicates.

The variations occur in large airway branches in the lower lobes of the lungs and can be readily detected with standard CT scans. The findings suggest that people with certain variations might, in the future, need more personalized treatments.

“These changes are occurring at a branching level equivalent to your fingers—so it’s like a quarter of us having four or six fingers instead of five.”

COPD is a progressive lung disease that causes airway inflammation, makes breathing more difficult, and is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. COPD usually occurs in people with a history of smoking, commonly after they have quit smoking, but is increasingly recognized in those who have never smoked.

Benjamin Smith, an assistant professor in McGill University’s medicine department and the study’s first author, noticed that old autopsy studies had been reported variations in the large airways of lungs. So, he and the other researchers set out to see how common those variations are in the general population, and if they were associated with COPD.

For the study, the researchers examined CT scans from more than 3,000 people in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Lung Study.

‘Like having four fingers’

“We found that central airway branches of the lungs, which are believed to form early in life, do not follow the textbook pattern in one quarter of the adult population and these non-textbook variations in airway branches are associated with higher COPD prevalence among older adults,” says Smith, who is also a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

“Interestingly, one of the airway branch variants was associated with COPD among smokers and non-smokers. The other was associated with COPD, but only among smokers.”

About 16 percent of people possess an extra airway branch in the lung, about 6 percent are missing a branch, and another 4 percent have a combination of variants or other patterns.

“The amount of lung variation high up in the airway tree was quite a surprise to us,” says R. Graham Barr, chief of general medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the study’s senior author. “These changes are occurring at a branching level equivalent to your fingers—so it’s like a quarter of us having four or six fingers instead of five.”

People with an extra airway branch were 40 percent more likely to have COPD than people with standard anatomy. And people missing a specific airway branch were almost twice as likely to have COPD, but only if they smoked. The researchers replicated the findings in a second study of almost 3,000 patients with and without COPD.

Low-dose screening lung CT scans, which are currently indicated clinically for lung cancer screening in older patients with a history of heavy smoking in the prior 15 years can identify these airway tree variations. Before researchers use CT scans outside of this group for the identification of airway variants in clinical practice, the authors say more research is necessary to confirm that preventive or therapeutic interventions based on the presence of airway tree variations can improve patients’ outcomes.

Family history

In the meantime, the researchers say they will be investigating another important finding—this one around family history. Their study identified a common airway branch variation that occurs within families and is associated with COPD among non-smokers.

Smith says that, while other developmental events that occur within families may be involved, his research team is looking into whether there is a genetic basis for this variant.

“If proven,” he says, “this would represent a novel mechanism of COPD among non-smokers.”

Smith emphasizes that for all the new findings, quitting smoking remains the best antidote to COPD, and smokers trying to quit should seek professional help, if necessary, to succeed.

The researchers report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Additional authors of the study are from McGill University; Columbia University; the University of Virginia; the University of Iowa; the University of Arizona; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the University of Michigan; Johns Hopkins University; the University of Minnesota; the University of Utah, the University of Washington; Northwestern University; Cornell University; the University of Nebraska; and the University of California, San Francisco.

Financial support came from the National Institutes of Health, McGill University Health Center Research Institute, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec–Santé (FRQS).

One coauthor (Eric A. Hoffman of the University of Iowa) is cofounder and shareholder in Vida Diagnostics, which the researchers used to assess some, but not the main, lung measures in the study.

Source: McGill University

The post Our lungs aren’t all identical appeared first on Futurity.


Organic vortex lasers could be used in future 3-D displays

Researchers have developed a new type of organic vortex laser, which is a laser that emits a helical beam of light. In the future, miniature arrays of these vortex lasers, each with a slightly different spiral shape, may be used in applications such as 3D TV displays, microscopy, and as information carriers for visible light communications.

Speedy decisions set Olympians apart

Quick decision-making and a lot of experience give Olympians an edge, says neuroscientist Christopher Fetsch.

Fetsch, assistant professor of neuroscience and researcher in the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins University, studies how the brain makes decisions, weighing information coming in from the various senses.

Take Olympic skiers. They fly down the slope and see a gate. Go left or right? It’s a seemingly easy choice, but a very tough computational challenge for the brain.

The skiers must evaluate what’s ahead, the feel of the snow pack, speed, the tilt of the body. But because they’ve skied slopes like this thousands of times, by the time they’re on an Olympic course, at that gate, their brains know just how to merge this disparate sensory information.

Though the brain of someone who’s never skied would be at a loss, the Olympian’s brain has expertise at solving this precise equation involving speed, snow, and other variables. In about the time it takes to blink, the skier has settled on an informed plan.

The entire run is a sequence of these decisions.

Your ‘mind’s eye’ can make its own decisions

“What sets elite athletes apart from us is not necessarily their bodies, their strength, or their agility,” Fetsch says. “What really sets apart the gold medalists from just the also-rans is the quickness and flexibility with which their brains are converting input from their senses into commands to move their muscles. These rapid-fire decisions that a skier has to make going down the slope will determine whether that extra hundredth of a second is gained.”

Source: Johns Hopkins University

The post Speedy decisions set Olympians apart appeared first on Futurity.


SpaceX stages an amazing launch – but what about the environmental impact?

SpaceX has now launched the most powerful spacecraft since the Apollo era – the Falcon Heavy rocket – setting the bar for future space launches. The most important thing about this reusable spacecraft is that it can carry a payload equivalent to sending five double-decker London buses into space – which will be invaluable for future manned space exploration or in sending bigger satellites into orbit.

A fast and efficient method for graphene nanoribbon synthesis

Nanographenes are attracting wide interest from many researchers as a powerful candidate for the next generation of carbon materials due to their unique electric properties. Scientists at Nagoya University have now developed a fast way to form nanographenes in a controlled fashion. This simple and powerful method for nanographene synthesis could help generate a range of novel optoelectronic materials, such as organic electroluminescent displays and solar cells.

Strategic sustainability focus delivers competitive advantages

Once the domain of a company's production/operations department, environmental awareness has steadily expanded to include functions across the entire organization. Over the last three decades, Earth-friendly actions have evolved from recycling and sourcing materials that use recycled content to incorporating sustainability considerations into products and services.

How bats help explain the human brain

By measuring the brain activity of bats, scientists are learning how mammals keep track of everyone in their social circles.

Keep pot away from pets

If you suspect your pet has ingested marijuana, whether in the form of an "edible" or the plant itself, it's important to be upfront with your veterinarian about what has happened.
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